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Termites avoid predatory ants by eavesdropping on vibrations cues from their tiny footsteps.
How termites are able to detect the presence of ants to avoid contact is largely unknown.
Certainly, ants use chemical cues like pheromones as a key communication tool, so it would make sense that termites would use the presence of such chemicals as a warning sign.
However, some recent research suggests that termites can detect the presence of ants by using sounds (vibrations) too.
With an ant weighing only a few milligrams, how termites detect and recognise such vibrations amongst others sound is amazing.
A comparison of 16 termites and ant species found that ants make a noise whilst walking up to 100X lounder than termites.
The researchers concluded that ‘eavesdropping’ on passive walking signals explains the predator detection and foraging behaviours in this ancient relationship.
Researcher: Sebastian Oberst, Ecology Letters (2017).